I know, I know I promised Squirrel Splat next, and I have it all written, but then I got notification of a scary story contest from Fantasy Island Book Publishing (https://www.facebook.com/quest
Oh, and don't worry: porch season is over.
I was reading the newspaper on the quiet of the screened-in porch. The day was calm, the sky that silky blue before the first cold snap of fall. A blur flashed in the corner of my vision, and a something, no, a person darted in through the screen door. I startled up, barely able to take in much of his -- her? -- appearance. Filthy jeans and a blood-stained shirt made me instinctively pull back. Pasty flesh, bruised eyes, a look of incomprehension on a slack mouth. It spring at me, teeth barred, of all things.
Buster, my black lab, ran from the house through the open, sliding glass door, growling and barking. When I came to consciousness, Buster had chased it off, I assume as both were gone. The attack itself was a blank in my mind.
Obviously the creature had knocked me to the ground. I couldn’t collect my thoughts. I put a hand to my head, and it came away bloody. It had either whacked me on the head with a rock or something, or thrown me to the ground because I had a nasty bump. My arm ached, too, and I saw the marks of a good-sized jaw incised on my upper arm. I’d been out long enough for the rivulets of blood down to my hand to have caked. The damned thing bit me! But why? Why, why, why?
I live in a quiet neighborhood. We have manicured yards. We have old trees. What we don’t have is a weird crime problem.
I blanked out again. When my mind cleared, or semi-cleared really, I was still on the floor. I must be concussed. There’d been a lot about concussions in the news lately; all I had to do was stay awake but quiet. Jay would come home from work in a bit, not more than a few hours, whatever time it was now. He would take me to the emergency room if I needed to go.
I pushed myself up cautiously to sit in the Adirondack chair and rested a moment. Buster came back, up to the screen door. My stomach growled. For a bleary second, I thought about taking a bite out of Buster. Okay, my head was worse than I thought; that was just sick. I leaned over to push open the door. Instead of rushing eagerly through, he dropped his to his forepaws, his tail low and still. He growled.
“Good dog,” I croaked, but he yowled and fled. I must really be a mess.
My scratchy throat emphasized that I was thirsty. I thought I could make it inside to the kitchen for some water. I should stave off dehydration no matter how difficult getting to the sink might be. I edged through the sliding glass door and along the wall. I was feeling pretty dizzy, and if I had to, I could simply slide down the wall without risking hitting my head again. I made it all right, though, and turned on the tap, the water streaming. I looked at it puddled in my cupped hand. Then I didn’t feel like drinking after all.
My stomach growled again. I turned slowly, trying to keep the slight equilibrium I had, and opened the refrigerator door to survey the contents. I thought maybe some yogurt, something that would slide down easily. No, that wasn’t appealing. I had some hamburger in there. I pulled the package and stuck a fingernail into the plastic wrapping, poking at it, but it didn’t look very appetizing, either, its snake-like curls red and dead.
My head was worse now, and I felt my concentration zooming in and out of focus. I thought I’d go wash my face and rest until Jay got home.
The head injury must have done something to my coordination. I was having trouble with my balance as I lurched down the hall and into the bathroom. I held myself up by pushing on the counter, and glanced into the mirror.
For the flicker of an eye, I thought it was the creature staring back, the creature that bit me. My eyes were bruised and blank, my skin ashen. My stomach growled again. My head seemed buzzier but my needs clearer. Why was I standing here? I was confused. I was so hungry. Jay would be home soon. I smiled; the image in the mirror grimaced back.